Boost Email Deliverability | Hit Inbox Every Time | Venger.me
Detailed email marketing checklist 📧

Low open rates or landing in spam?

It's likely a deliverability issue. Solve it — follow our checklist to ensure your emails hit the inbox every time and get an impressive 65-80% open rate and beyond.

I hired Eugene to help me diagnose my email marketing agency's deliverability problems. He not only walked me through the test results patiently, he helped me understand the core issues of why deliverability issues were occurring. I highly recommend hiring Eugene – he's extremely knowledgeable!

Andres Ocampo

Authentication 🔗

(5 tasks)

An SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record defines which IP addresses have the permission to transmit emails from your domain. Answer the questions to generate an SPF record.

Now let's setup your SPF record by creating a TXT record for your domain. Below are general step-by-step instructions on how to add a TXT record. The process will be similar for most domain registrar companies and hosting providers with some small differences.

  1. Log into your Account
  2. Navigate to the Domains page
  3. You should see a list of all your domains; click on the domain
  4. Click on DNS or Edit DNS
  5. Then click on Host Records or Edit Host Records
  6. Now you will have the option to create a new record
  7. For the record Type select TXT
  8. For the Host/Name field enter the @ character or your domain (example.com), both are acceptable
  9. For the Content/Value field copy and paste the SPF record we generated for you
  10. For the TTL field leave it as-is to use the default value
  11. Click Save to complete your updates (allow up to 48 hours for your DNS changes to take full effect globally)

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) assists email providers in spotting forged sender addresses in emails, a common tactic in phishing and spam. Emails failing authentication are prone to being directed to the spam or junk mail folder. Adhere to the directions below to acquire your DKIM Key and insert a DKIM record to your DNS entries.

Obtain your DKIM Key

Your DKIM Key can be obtained through your hosting control panel. Locating it depends on the type of control panel used by your hosting provider. Select the control panel type below for instructions.

Create your DKIM record

Similar to SPF records, DKIM records are created by adding a TXT record to your DNS records. Since you now have experience adding a TXT record you should already know what to do. Below is an example DKIM record to guide you.

Setup DKIM for Email Service Providers

If you send email through an email marketing platform or email delivery provider; you need to setup DKIM records for them as well.

Don't see your platform or provider in the dropdown? Send us a message so we can add it to the list.

A DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) record allows senders to indicate that their emails are safeguarded by SPF and/or DKIM, and furnish instructions for scenarios where neither authentication methods are passed. Ensure your SPF and DKIM records are in place before employing DMARC. Transitioning to DMARC compliance is more than a mere addition of a TXT record to your DNS entries. It's an endeavor that might span several weeks to months, contingent on your email sending volume, and the email marketing platform or delivery provider you are using.

Starting 2024 Gmail require senders to have a DMARC policy of at least p=none. If you're setting up DMARC for the first time, we recommend setting a policy of p=none and collecting aggregate data with a DMARC monitoring service. You can then monitor reports and slowly bring your domain into compliance over time.

DMARC compliance will prevent malicious actors from abusing your domain reputation which can in turn impact your deliverability. This is what a typical DMARC compliance process looks like:

  • Add a DMARC record to your domain host records with a policy of **p=none**
  • Collect data from DMARC reports using a monitoring service for several weeks or months depending on your organization
  • Perform an audit and adjust your SPF & DKIM records if necessary to bring your domain into alignment
  • Collect more data from DMARC reports for several weeks or months depending on your organization
  • Perform an audit, adjust your SPF & DKIM records if necessary and enforce a stricter DMARC policy of **p=quarantine**
  • Continue collecting data from DMARC reports for several weeks or months depending on your organization
  • Perform a final audit, adjust your SPF & DKIM records if necessary and enforce the strictest DMARC policy of **p=reject**
  • Continue collecting DMARC reports and monitoring your sending habits

The goal of becoming DMARC complaint is to eventually enforce a policy of p=reject. Setting a reject policy will ensure that all malicious email is stopped. The recipient of the intended malicious email will never become aware of the email in the first place, as it will never get sent to a spam or quarantine folder. Since it's completely blocked, emails are never delivered and end-users cannot be tricked into clicking on a malicious link or opening a dangerous attachment.

The downside is if legitimate emails are failing authentication and emails get rejected, the receiver will never know they are not receiving the intended email. For organizations not actively using a reporting system to monitor authentication, it could take months to discover that legitimate email is not being delivered, potentially hurting marketing programs or other opportunities to engage with prospects, customers and partners. This is why it's important to take DMARC compliance step-by-step, use a monitoring service and incrementally enforce a stricter DMARC policy.

Choose a DMARC monitoring service

Before creating your DMARC record start by choosing a monitoring service to process reports and monitor DMARC compliance.

Postmark (Free or $10/month)
https://dmarc.postmarkapp.com/
Dmarcian (Free up to 2 domains or $24/m)
https://dmarcian.com/pricing/
Dmarcly (Basic plan $17.99/month)
https://dmarcly.com/pricing
Powerdmarc (Free or $8/month)
https://powerdmarc.com/power-dmarc-pricing-policy/

Possessing an SSL certificate facilitates the transmission of emails through a secure SSL/TLS connection. It encrypts and fortifies the connection between your mail server and the recipient's mail server, playing a crucial role in establishing your sender score and reputation with email service providers. If you don't have an SSL certificate, reach out to your hosting provider, or opt for the CloudFlare Free Plan encompassing a complimentary SSL certificate.

MX (Mail Exchange) records guide email systems on where to deliver messages. Absence of precise MX records can result in emails being misplaced or bounced back, akin to sending a letter with an incorrect address. Lack of an MX record can also signal to mailbox providers a non-adherence to email norms by the sender, culminating in delivery hurdles or being tagged as spam. Choose a mailbox provider from the dropdown for step-by-step guidance on establishing MX records.

Infrastructure 🔗

(8 tasks)

Email Marketing Platforms assist users in sending emails to subscribers or prospective customers, while Email Delivery Providers facilitate the sending of transactional emails to existing customers. There are further classifications within Email Marketing Platforms, namely Inbound and Outbound. It's crucial to choose the right tool as misusing them for incorrect types of email could lead to account suspension.

Transactional
Welcome message, sales invoice, comment alerts or account confirmation
Delivery Services
Amazon SES, Postmark, Mailgun, Mailjet, SendGrid
Inbound
Newsletters or information emails triggered by user request (via a single or double opt-in form)
Marketing Automation Software
ActiveCampaign, Sendinblue, Hubspot, Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Campaign Monitor, Klaviyo, Drip, Bento
Outbound
Sales pitches or cold emails
Sales Outreach Software
Lemlist, Reply.io, Outreach.io, MailShake, SmartReach

When sending marketing emails, it's advisable to select a platform that allows batch sending. Depending on your contact list size, gradually release the emails over a span of hours or days rather than a mass send-out, to avoid overwhelming recipients.

Choose between a shared or dedicated IP address. A shared IP is utilized by numerous senders whereas a dedicated IP is exclusively yours. For sending volumes less than 50,000 per month, a shared IP suffices, although some lower volume senders migrate to a dedicated IP for better control over their reputation. For volumes exceeding 50,000 per month, a dedicated IP or multiple is advisable. Many email marketing and delivery platforms provide dedicated IPs for an additional charge. This consideration is advisable for newsletters or transactional emails. For cold email campaigns, the IP address provided by your mail provider (e.g., Google Workspace, Office365, AWS WorkMail, Zoho) is adequate.

The reputations of the IP address, domain, and email address significantly influence the delivery of emails into your customer's inbox rather than being flagged as spam or relegated to the Promotions tab by platforms like Google. Email providers prioritize transactional emails but distinguishing between transactional and marketing emails can be challenging.

Utilizing distinct email addresses, subdomains, and IP addresses for each email type increases the likelihood of your crucial emails reaching customers. It also safeguards your regular correspondence or transactional emails from any adverse effects caused by marketing campaigns that might tarnish the domain or IP reputation.

Standard Emails
Your Server IP Address
Transactional Emails
Delivery Provider IP Address
Marketing Emails
Marketing Platform IP Address

How can you ascertain when an email has been flagged as spam by a recipient, and what measures can be taken? By enrolling in feedback loops, email providers will alert you when an email has been marked as spam by a recipient. It's necessary to set up individual feedback loops for each email provider you're sending to. Below are the links to sign up for feedback loops with popular email providers.

Postmaster Tools by Gmail
https://www.gmail.com/postmaster/
Microsoft Junk Mail Reporting Program
https://postmaster.live.com/snds/JMRP.aspx (Only for dedicated IP address)
Yahoo Mail Complaint Feedback Loop
https://io.help.yahoo.com/contact/
Other Feedback Loop Listings
https://glockapps.com/isp-feedback-loops/

Setting up custom tracking domains is paramount when using an email marketing platform for sending. Unlike the default tracking domain of the platform, custom tracking domains employ your domain for action tracking (like opens, link clicks, and unsubscribes), thus insulating your reputation from other users on the same platform.

For instance, if a spammer utilizes MailChimp and the spam emails carry the default MailChimp tracking domain, a domain-based spam blacklist may list it, and if your emails share this tracking domain, your email deliverability could be compromised.

The process to create a custom tracking domain includes adding a CNAME record to your DNS entries. Most email marketing platforms facilitate the creation of custom tracking domains and provide detailed instructions.

It's a sound practice, and sometimes a requisite by certain email providers, to have designated role email accounts like postmaster and abuse. These accounts serve to receive abuse complaints, necessitating regular monitoring and prompt resolution of all reported issues.

Postmaster Email
postmaster@example.com
Abuse Email
abuse@example.com

It's not advisable to use a free webmail address as your "From" address. This includes email addresses from Yahoo, AOL, Outlook/Hotmail or Gmail. It's better to use an email address that's registered at your organization's own domain. When you send an email through an email marketing platform, email providers often see free webmail "From" addresses as more suspicious compared to those from custom domains. This perception can increase the likelihood of emails from those addresses being rejected.

Reputation 🔗

(3 tasks)

Examine your domain and IP address on known spam blacklists to verify if you've been blacklisted. If that's the case, request to be removed from the list. If you're utilizing an email delivery provider, make sure to inspect the outbound sending IP addresses linked to your account.

Spamhaus
https://check.spamhaus.org/
Spamcop
https://www.spamcop.net/bl.shtml
SURBL
http://www.surbl.org/surbl-analysis
DNSBL.info
https://www.dnsbl.info/dnsbl-list.php
MX Toolbox
https://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx

The Talos Reputation Center gives a reputation score categorized into Good, Neutral, and Poor. Aim for an Email Reputation score of Neutral or Good.

Barracuda Central keeps a track record of IP addresses for both known spammers and senders with proper email practices.

Sender Score offers a free email reputation assessment service from Validity. It showcases the trustworthiness of an email sender's IP address.

Talos Intelligence
https://talosintelligence.com/reputation_center/
Barracuda Central
https://www.barracudacentral.org/lookups/lookup-reputation
Sender Score
https://senderscore.org/get-your-score/

Begin by sending a low volume of emails, gradually increasing the send rate to warm up the sending IP addresses associated with your domain. The goal is to establish a good IP and domain reputation with email providers. Here are a few common scenarios.

Scenario 1: Suddenly, your regular emails are taking a detour to the junk folder, according to the recipients.
Solution: Get SPF, DKIM, and DMARC on board. Pair up with an email warmup service. In 2-3 weeks, you'll find 95% of your emails cozying up in the inbox.
Scenario 2: You got yourself a fresh domain or crafted a subdomain for cold outreach campaigns.
Solution: Arm it with SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and a custom tracking domain. Engage an email warmup service. Give it a 2-3 week stretch until your inbox placement rate hits the sweet 95% or above. Kick off with 50 emails daily, then play the long game, upping the send rate steadily, all while keeping an eagle eye on your open and complaint rates.
Scenario 3: Either a shiny new dedicated IP or a switch to a novel email marketing platform is your play for newsletter campaigns.
Solution: Refresh your SPF and DKIM records. Day one, drop 3000 emails (that’s 125 hourly), and then jazz up the daily send rate by 15% over a four-week gig. Peep the image below for a warmup strategy that's hotter than July.
Scenario 4: Newsletters from your prime domain are getting the cold shoulder with an open rate below 20%.
ActiveCampaign, Sendinblue, Hubspot, Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Campaign Monitor, Klaviyo, Drip, Bento

List Quality 🔗

(4 tasks)

Sending emails to addresses that bounce will negatively affect your sender score and reputation with email providers, hence it's crucial to confirm your contacts' email addresses.

If your contacts were obtained via a double opt-in method, there's no need to validate as they have already been confirmed through the double opt-in process (double opt-in is when a user confirms their email address after filling out a form or subscribing to your newsletter).

An email validation service helps filter out fake, disposable, catch-all, and spam trap email addresses. A simple Google search for email list validation will reveal companies offering this service. Some email marketing platforms provide this service automatically when you import your list or offer it for an additional fee.

Avoid sending marketing emails to generic or role-based email addresses, instead, aim for personal or business email addresses of individuals.

Sales Department
sales@example.com ❌
Chief Executive Officer
ceo@example.com ❌
John Doe, CEO Company Email
john.doe@example.com ✔️
John Doe Personal Email
john.doe@gmail.com ✔️

Spam traps are email addresses utilized by email providers and blocklist operators to catch senders who disregard email best practices. They come in two varieties:

Pristine
Pristine spam traps are email addresses that have never been legitimate and could not have opted into receiving email. They are placed on public websites but hidden in the site's code. They aim to catch email marketers with poor list building practices like scraping sites for emails or buying contact lists.
Recycled
Recycled spam traps were valid email addresses at one point but have since been repurposed by their provider. This type of spam trap might end up on your sending list if: 1) Your list is over a year old. 2) You don't email your list frequently or 3) There are mistyped or invalid addresses on your list.

The consequences of hitting spam traps differ based on the type. Landing on a pristine spam trap is more detrimental than a recycled trap. If you've emailed a pristine spam trap, your domain or sending IP address could be blocklisted instantly. Regular hits on recycled spam traps could lead to your emails being directed to the junk folder. To keep away from spam traps, clean your contact lists routinely.

A high number of bounced emails, similar to spam complaints, tarnish your reputation which in turn affects email deliverability. When you send an email to a fake address, it comes back with a hard-bounce message. By removing fake and bounced email addresses during your list cleaning, the count and percentage of bounces will decrease in your future sends. Bounced emails come in two varieties: Hard and Soft. Hard bounces occur because the domain name is non-existent, the email address is invalid, or the delivery is blocked by the email server. Most email marketing platforms will automatically clean out hard-bounced email addresses from your list but retain soft-bounces. Soft-bounces generally occur because the recipient's email account has reached its storage limit. It's worth noting that if soft bounces happen consistently, they'll eventually turn into hard bounces.

Content Quality 🔗

(15 tasks)

Most email providers don't support all HTML content types found on the web. Unlike web browsers that can display scripts, animations, and complex navigation menus, typical email inboxes aren't designed to handle such content. For outbound email marketing campaigns (cold emails), it's advisable to craft simple email content with links only. For inbound marketing campaigns (newsletters), you can be a bit more creative but should steer clear of complex HTML.

Safe to use ✔️
Static or table-based layouts, HTML tables & nested tables, template width of 600px-800px or simple, inline CSS
Avoid ❌
JavaScript, iframe, Flash, embedded audio, embedded video, forms or div layering

Ensure to use secure HTTPS links when linking to images or websites in your email body. Unsecured links can cause emails to be flagged as insecure by email providers, potentially leading to them being blocked or relegated to the junkmail folder.

http://www.yourdomain.com
Not secure ❌
https://www.yourdomain.com
Secure ✔️

Although having signatures with your logo and social media links is fine for regular correspondence, it's not ideal for transactional or marketing email campaigns. A simpler signature with your name, job title, company, and website link is preferable. The aim is to minimize the number of links in your email body. Additionally, ensure to include an opt-out or unsubscribe link below your signature or at the email's end, along with your physical or mailing address, to comply with anti-spam laws.

Though attaching files in emails to known contacts is common, doing so in bulk email sends can activate spam filters. This is because malicious emails often contain harmful attachments, and spam filters are engineered to flag such emails. Besides, attachments increase your email size, delaying their load time. It's better to incorporate necessary information within the email body and provide secure links for additional materials instead of attachments.

Avoid using spammy words in your emails as they can trigger spam filters. Below is an image listing words that, if used in your subject line or body, could activate spam filters. If an email needs to contain any of these terms (like in a promotion), try to find synonyms. Modern spam filters are quite advanced, and using a phrase or two won't be detrimental as long as you adhere to email marketing best practices and use these terms in the right context.

Using all caps in the subject line is a known spammer tactic and will likely trigger spam filters, landing your emails in the junk folder. Opt for simple, readable subject lines in lowercase letters.

Spammy subject line
UNBELIEVABLE DISCOUNTS INSIDE!
Good subject line
Enjoy exclusive discounts on your next purchase

Personalization helps boost open rates. Including the recipient's first name in the subject line can make emails feel more tailored to them. If emails are seen as relevant and personalized, recipients are more likely to open and read them. Good open rates signal to email providers that your emails are valued, improving your sender score and reputation.

Bulk emails should have an opt-out or unsubscribe link. This practice prevents your emails from landing in spam folders, and helps avoid blacklisting. These links provide recipients a choice to opt-out, ensuring you're reaching those interested in your content. Additionally, it complies with anti-spam laws granting recipients the right to unsubscribe.

Spammers often use base64 code to mask email content from spam filters. Using base64 code will get your emails flagged as spam.

Avoid using shared domain URL shorteners as spammers use them to disguise malicious links, leading to filtering by some email providers. Instead, use the original URL linked to descriptive text, which looks better and can alleviate potential filtering issues.

Using a no-reply address can seem inattentive and frustrate recipients needing to contact you. This practice could also negatively affect delivery rates over time as user engagement, including replies, helps determine inbox placement. Having people respond to your email campaigns improves your reputation with some email providers.

For subscriber trust, the "From" name should resemble the "From" email address. For instance, an email from BBC Support should come from an address like support@bbc.com.

Distinguish between marketing and transactional emails by customizing the "From" address, like newsletters@, support@, or billing@. This allows recipients to manage your emails using client filters and ensures important emails aren’t missed if they filter out marketing emails.

Use a different reply-to address to handle responses, especially useful if managing a large subscriber list to avoid a flood of out-of-office emails to your main address. Most email marketing platforms allow setting a different reply address for campaigns.

From Name
Gadget Galaxy
From Email
newsletter@gadgetgalaxy.com
Reply-to Email
replies@gadgetgalaxy.com

Alt tags provide a text alternative for images, aiding accessibility, user experience, and spam filter bypass. They're essential for visually impaired individuals or when images can't be displayed.

Test Your Emails 🔗

(1 tasks)

First off, ensure your emails aren't spammy. Head over to Mail-Tester.com, send an email to the provided address (filled with your intended content), wait a bit, and check your score. Aim for a full 10/10. Anything less? Revisit, adjust, and re-test until you nail that perfect score. Secondly, see where your emails will land using GlockApps Inbox Email Tester. Send another email, wait for a bit, then check the results. Strive for a 'Good' score of 80/100 or more. Falling short? Revise and re-test until you hit or surpass 80/100.

Carry out these tests each time you whip up an email campaign.

Maintain Your Reputation 🔗

(4 tasks)

Keep an eye on your bounce rate —stay below 5% to keep your sender reputation shiny and ensure your emails find their way to your customers’ inbox without a hitch.

Watch your spam complaint rate and keep it under 0.1%. This rate represents the number of spam reports over the total emails sent. Stay below 1 complaint per 1,000 emails sent, as anything more is considered a red flag.

Most email providers only store reputation data for 30 days, so don’t let 30 days pass without sending an email from any IP address. If you do, you'll need to warm up the address again. Stick to a consistent sending rhythm to keep your reputation intact.

Got subscribers who've ghosted you for months? It's time to bid them goodbye. Keeping your list clean from inactive subscribers will safeguard your open rates and sender reputation. Though your list might shrink, the remaining subscribers are more likely to engage, boosting your email deliverability.

Don't want to do it all by yourself?

I'm here to ramp up your deliverability and iron out all kinks. Let's connect!

Testimonials

I have helped many amazing people

“Eugene was a HUGE asset to the team. Always responsive, professional and creative. He will be missed! Highly recommended and would hope to work together again in the future.”

Jared Burke
@Founder & Director at Pyrashyut

“We have been working successfully with Eugene for many years. He always finds a quick and suitable solution for all problems. We appreciate his good communication, availability, flexibility and professional work. Eugene has become a very important part of our team. Much appreciated, Eugene.”

Andreas Lange
@Online Marketing Manager / Iberosattel Reitsport GmbH

“Eugene is very knowledgable. We work on a project that was not easy or straightforward but he really took the time to find solutions. He is very enthusiastic and eager to do the job well. Great communication, flexibility and availability. We had some hiccups but he was really on the case and solved them very quickly. Very professional and has integrity. Thank you Eugene!”

Ioana Hardy
@Managing Director at Impacters Group

“I recommend Eugene to anyone who wants to take their business to the next level of success and profitability. He has a keen eye for seeking out ways to increase profits and implementing a strategy to achieve that. Would definitely recommend him to others. Thank you!”

Oleg Zaidiner
@CEO & Co-Founder at aNavigator

“Eugene is very knowledgeable in Active Campaigns and their integrations. Was a good consultation. ”

Phil De Gruchy
@Managing Director & Founder at Blue Llama

“Eugene was so helpful and went above and beyond to make sure I understood how everything he did works! He's very knowledgeable and I love how he went the extra step to help me.”

Blazia Lyster
@Meditation Teacher

“Eugene is very supportive and a great communicator. Highly recommended!”

Katie Dillon
@Founder at KXD Media

“My consultation with Eugene was great! He is very knowledgable and shared some great tips and shortcuts that I was not previously aware of! I will definitely contact Eugene again if I have any questions in the future. If you struggle in that area, Eugene is the person to ask! !”

Sayuri Nishio
@Founder

Services

For those who need help or don't want to DIY.

Consultation

Guidance to maximize deliverability & open rates and profit from your email campaigns.

$ 100
One-time fee, in USD
  • 1hr Zoom / Google Meet meetings
  • List of recommendations
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Answers to your questions
  • 14-days priority chat support

Authentication Setup

We setup your domain authentication to land in the inbox & protect your reputation.

$ 130
One-time fee per domain or subdomain
  • Create & setup SPF, DKIM & DMARC
  • Setup DKIM
  • Check reverse DNS & SSL
  • Setup DMARC monitoring
  • Perform email spam test

Infrastructure Setup

We setup your authentication & infrastructure for cold outreach or newsletter campaigns.

$ 400
One-time fee per setup, in USD
  • 30min intro Zoom meeting (optional)
  • Create & setup SPF, DKIM & DMARC
  • Check reverse DNS & SSL
  • Create and setup email accounts with ESP
  • Plan and setup warmup process
  • Validate email addresses (extra costs apply)
  • Perform email spam & inbox placement tests
  • Create, configure & schedule 1st campaign
  • 30-days priority support

Deliverability Audit

We perform an in-depth audit of your sending infrastructure, identify issues and fix them for you.

$ 800
Includes 2 domains or subdomains and 2 ESP's
  • Check all authentication records
  • Set up DMARC monitoring
  • Perform inbox placement tests
  • Perform email spam tests
  • A/B test subject lines and email copy
  • Fix all deliverability issues
  • Provide recommendations and tools
  • Written report upon completion
  • 30-days priority support

Ready to work on your deliverability?

Let's get into it.